VIEWPOINT: Two Cheers for the Lawyers 

The Memphis Bar Association, the Ben Jones Chapter of the bar association comprised of black lawyers, David Caywood, Richard Fields, and Herman Morris did their darnedest to shed some light on the judicial races in the August 3rd election. They backed up their picks with evidence in many cases. Voters who take the trouble to look over the endorsements and comments, along with the picks of the local Republican and Democratic parties, should be reasonably well informed.

It's a start. It's a big improvement over blindly partisan ballots and, worse, billboard campaigns that rely on red-white-and-blue color schemes and the words "reelect," "return," or "experienced" to tout judicial credentials.

So two cheers, but not three cheers. Lawyers, judges, reporters, and court officials can do better. And we must.

Ever seen a sleeping judge? Yes, it happens. Ever seen a judge take a free vacation from someone with a pending case in his court? It's happened. Ever seen judges who work 20 hours while colleagues work 50? It happens. Ever see judges take campaign contributions from attorneys with business in their court? It happens.

What is needed is a ratings system that compiles the enormous amount of data gathered by the court clerks' offices and reported to the state. Otherwise why collect it? Sure it's hard to boil it down, but we rate and rank mutual funds, schools, cars, students, and entire cities with a single number, letter grade or symbol.

Disclosure is not truly disclosure if it is too cumbersome or confusing. Providing an internet link to a 50-page report on civil and criminal court judges is of limited usefulness, just as the fine print of corporate annual reports and public filings is too unwieldy for the layman. There must be measurements that apply to all candidates and they must be user-friendly.

I liked the Commercial Appeal's Sunday overview of judges. It was a nice piece of public-service journalism that included several lists of endorsements. But there's no substitute for being there, week in and week out, in the courtroom. So my personal sounding board for races involving candidates I don't know is my even-handed friend and former colleague Larry Buser, who has covered the courts for the CA for some 30 years. I expect others use a similar system.

Keep the Flyer Free!

Always independent, always free (never a paywall),
the Memphis Flyer is your source for the best in local news and information.

Now we want to expand and enhance our work.
That's why we're asking you to join us as a Frequent Flyer member.

You'll get membership perks (find out more about those here) and help us continue to deliver the independent journalism you've come to expect.


Favorite

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Blogs

News Blog

Trial on Memphis Activists Surveillance Begins

Film/TV/Etc. Blog

Music Video Monday: Stephen Chopek

From My Seat

Stubby's Stretch Run

Music Blog

Jose Feliciano Plays Unannounced Memphis Gig

Hungry Memphis

Welcome back, Restaurant Iris!

Music Blog

Gillian Welch Wows GPAC

Film/TV/Etc. Blog

Alpha

Intermission Impossible

In Praise of "Love and Murder" at Playhouse on the Square

ADVERTISEMENT

More by John Branston

  • Pyramid History 101

    Bass Pro should acknowledge the big pointy building’s backstory.
    • May 14, 2015
  • Let it Be

    What to do about the Fairgrounds? How about nothing?
    • Jan 29, 2015
  • Let’s Go, Shelby County Schools!

    Some suggestions for how the new Shelby County Schools system can hold its own in the years to come.
    • Aug 14, 2014
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • The Buddy System

    Harris and Kelsey hope to effect a good public outcome on the TVA/aquifer issue.
    • Feb 2, 2017
  • Cohen Tells It!

    In which Memphis’ Democratic congressman Steve Cohen, addressing an apparent GOP effort to muddy the waters on the Russian inquiry, not only takes no crap but gives it back where it came from. This is worth watching from beginning to end -- even for those who might disagree on the politics of the matter.
    • Jul 26, 2017
  • In reading the May 1st election totals, it depends on what your eyes are letting you see.

    Dissenters to "blue wave" theory rely on 2014 Lutrell-Lunati baseline to make cases for GOP having better bounce th9s year.
    • May 10, 2018
ADVERTISEMENT
© 1996-2018

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation